‘I can’t go back to yesterday – because I was a different person then.’ – Lewis Carroll

I know it’s been a while; my last posted Reception Report will vouch for that. Though I have continued to send them out in the morning, the idea of it lost its sparkle when somewhere along the line the pressure took out the pleasure. I intend on making up for my lack of blogging with an update on my Emerald Isle adventures and this… a little reflection on the journey thus far.

Last week I took a look at the calendar – Wednesday, 11 May 2011. My one year anniversary. Queue chinking champagne flutes. On one hand I believe it completely, so much has happened since that wintery Monday morning in May 2010. On the other hand, I can’t believe an entire year has passed already and I’m nowhere near ready for this marvellous voyage of self-discovery to end.

I remember lumbering my backpack into the back of my dad’s car and sitting in the front seat on the way to airport with my head in my hands. ‘What am I doing?’ I gurgled at him, the result of a sleepless night worrying about whether I’d packed enough socks. His response resembled something along the lines of ‘I don’t know, what are you doing?’. This question I’d surmise was the result of a parent watching his eldest child feck off for the second time in 5 years for an indeterminate amount of time, knowing full well she was likely to return homeless, with 25kg more shite and a maxed out credit card.

I could continue down my cliché padded route and tell you what followed was a life changing 12 months, but that would sort of be like shoving a polished diamond in your face and telling you it’s beautiful. So here in no particular order is just a list- my lessons, my memories and my ‘OMG’ moments of the last 365 days.

1. Do not back 5 pairs of shoes, 4 bottles of perfume, 15 pairs of earrings, 10 bangles and 23 kilograms of worth of clothing into a backpack and expect to be able to walk from the terminals to the tube at Heathrow Airport with it strapped to your back.

2. Said backpack was not functional at said weight, therefore multiple return journeys over the last year to Basingstoke were required (dictated mainly by seasonal wardrobe swaps), where a kind friend offered to house what I could not carry. In her attic. In a box twice the size of my bag. How I brought it all to Europe in the first place remains a logistic enigma.

3. Edinburgh. It blew my mind. I fell in love; on a spring day in May by myself I walked up and down the city with my mouth slightly agape. If you get the chance, go there. It’s worth it.

4. The Island. My summer in Greece was without a doubt the most amazing three months of my life to date. I was forced (sometimes gently, sometimes ferociously and at all times without my express consent) to take everything I knew about myself, throw it all up into the air at the same time and then catch. The things I caught are the things about me that make me who I am; the things I dropped are those that attached themselves by way of relationships, circumstance and lifestyle. Surplus. So whilst I left Santorini with an amazing tan, phenomenal new and old friends and a borderline alcoholic – I left as the rawest version of myself.*
* I will endeavour to make all further points sound less like a sequel to ‘Eat, Drink, Spew’.

5. Jumping off that cliff. We jumped four times in total Liv and I. Too prove something to ourselves, to each other and for the adrenaline rush.

6. ‘Sotto il cielo di Roma’. I spent a week re-exploring Rome, walking down every tiny alleyway I could find, flirting with Nonno’s that served me caffѐ and gelato and then ten days in Lake Como on a faux-honeymoon with Kellie reigniting my intense infatuation with the world’s greatest lover. Italy – you are on my list, I’m coming back for you.

7. Las Ramblas in Barcelona. All of the tacky shit aside, the place is alive. It pulsates under your feet. It makes you want to drink sangria on balmy nights and dance in the streets in red dresses. The clubs in Barcelona however, just make you want to hold your hand over your drink for fear of being roofied.

8. It’s Not Easy. Getting to Dublin alone, starting from scratch in a country in so much debt I’m thinking about renaming it ‘Ireece’ was hard. It was lonely. It was scary. It was fucking freezing.

9. The snow. Ireland experienced more snowfall and lower temperatures than it had for the previous 36 years. I bought a reindeer shaped waterbottle. It was so cold in my house I would have to get dressed in the bathroom and get back into my bed to do my makeup. A small part of my soul died that winter.

10. Family. My long awaited journey back to Cape Town this year served as a well-timed reminder that my family still exists. I have second cousins, third cousins, grandparents and even more family related by love rather than blood. 2011 also opened a new chapter for my immediate family. A chapter with reconciliation, understanding and perhaps even one day unity.

11. Surprising Liv in Münster for her 26th birthday and proceeding to dance around her kitchen belting out ‘C’est la vie’ with a room of people willingly doing the same.

12. Hating and then loving and then hating Brussels. Unlikely to ever return again. Despite the wonderful waffles and beautiful beers.

13. Ireland. The countryside is what it says on the tin. Its blue skies (I kid) and rolling green hills. It’s sheep for Africa and cows a ’plenty. It’s stunning.

14. In the hope of putting a halt (or at least an exception) to the wildly accepted theory out there that Irish men are amazing, in my humble experiences I have unfortunately come across few Irish men that are not:
a. Repressed
b. Mammy’s boys
c. Average looking.

15. ‘The craic’. It’s still not a phrase I’m completely comfortable using, but it describes IT -the craic that is- down to the last c. It explains why I have made fierce and firm friends and why my liver will never fully recover from my 8 month stint as a Dubliner.

16. Life without cake, is no life at all. Don’t go to London and expect not to drink beer and guzzle plates of fish and chips. Don’t go to Greece and expect not to lather yourself in tzatziki and gyros. Don’t go to Italy and not attempt to stuff gelato, pasta and pizza in your mouth all at the same time. Try going to Spain and not living on litres of sangria and cured ham. Imagine going to Ireland and convincing yourself you’re not going to drink pints of Guinness for dinner. Ok you get it. Travel comes hand in hand with jeans that no longer fit and the substitution of clothes for muumuus. All I’m saying is that it’s worth it. Every sip, every mouthful and every goddam extra kilogram.

My giant arse and I send our sincere thanks for your company over the last year. And raise our glasses to the next chapter.


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

An oldy, but a goody.

Friday, 25 March 2011

A jig around town.

Thursday, 17 March 2011 – my first (and possibly last) St. Patricks Day in Ireland was marked with the arrival of Liv from Germany for a weekend in my home town. What followed was a particularly civilised, tame if you will afternoon and evening introduction to my hood. Warily we watched the green and orange wearing, flag donning revellers nursing cans of cider stumble merrily towards the annual Paddy’s day parade and made the decision to head in the opposite direction.

Post bag dropping and the inaugural glass of white for the weekend we strolled back into the city while I showed off the sights ‘This is my local Aldi, I get coffee here, don’t stand in that 800th piece of dog shite’. We eventually ended up in The Bleeding Horse, a two story, wooden panelled, red carpeted ‘traditional’ pub. Filled with custodians anywhere between 18 and 68 and gripping a Bulmer’s and a Guinness we took a seat near the window. It was at this early point in the game, Liv made the startling discovery I’ve been avoiding accepting for near on 6 months. The Irish population, left in Ireland, for the lack of any accurately available politically correct adjectives- are an average looking bunch of folk. Coupled with this realisation and the assumption of our fellow male and female patrons that we were lesbian life partners – an assumption the whole of Dublin made for the entire weekend – we took our leave. Cassidy’s, an aptly, though fondly, described ‘old mans pub’ however proved our final undoing. Filled with drunk middle aged men and women we were this time confronted with the ghosts of our future selves. One pair of white leggings and reference to Annie Lennox too many, we hot footed it (soberly) to feed our rumbling bellies. After a calorie jammed meal at Irelands ‘gourmet’ burger joint Eddie Rockets, we found ourselves tucked up in bed by 9pm amongst only a few half-arsed grumbles about us giving up on Paddy too early.

Friday dawned and with it one of the most stunning mornings I’ve experienced in Dublin to date. Wearing matching lesbian shirts – a horrible post outing realisation- and take-away coffee in hand we were ready to get our tourist on. I walked Liv up through our toy town streets and into St. Stephens Green Park, packed with sun adoring folk with the same idea. We walked from the South side to the North side as I describe the cultural divide the River Liffey gives the city. We took the afternoon casually, meeting a pal of Liv’s from Germany for lunch and then making the (foolish in hindsight) decision (again!) to attempt to shop. Somewhat bolstered by the prospect of cheap non-H&M purchases, we headed into Penny’s, the Irish Primark, for a stock up on Spring/Summer essentials. A change room, a mirror, a ridiculous queue and mini meltdown later, we thought it was best if we perhaps take our chunky bodies out for a drink instead.

St. Stephens Green

Alfie’s a Cocktail Bar/Restaurant recommended to me by a colleague saw the civilised beginnings of our uncivilised downfall. Sitting outside in the crisp afternoon light we ordered a beautiful Chilean Sauv Blanc in grooming for our €5 Cocktails. Eyeing off our fellow diners choices, we polished off the bottle and ordered a couple of our favourite classics with a mojito and strawberry daiquiri. Both equally as fresh as and fruity as a gay man after a shower. Encouraged by the price tag and the lack of excess mixer we merrily ordered our second. A tangy margarita for the Mane and a sweet and summery ‘Sexy Chick’ for the Crop. By now we were inside and propped up at a table near the bar with the eastern European bartender meters from our beady cocktail trained eyes. We watched him cockily mix our drinks and then revel in our expressions of delight as they came towards us. And then with a mere 20 minutes to spare before we were due at a bus stop to our dinner reservations we decided that a third and final cocktail was a magnificent idea! Alas, we steamrolled towards the clear winners in another mojito and the ‘mojito for mint haters’ – the caprioska. Joyous at our life loving natures we respectively skulled our last drinks and ran out the door in a whirl of shirt and flat boot.

Merrily we bounded for the bus which would ferry us to our final port – Johnny Foxes . Dublin’s highest restaurant, famous for its Hooley Show and fresh seafood. The Johnny Fox novelty bus rounded the corner and we clambered on amongst our coupled, middle-aged American and English friends towards our evening. Prepared only slightly for what would eventuate we entered the heaving bar and restaurant and were slipped passed the queuing diners to our reserved table for two. Seated Liv and I looked up to notice the room was crammed with men. On all sides. Who swiftly proceeded to join forces, raise their glasses and lift their voices in a national song. Only the language wasn’t English, and the nation was Ireland. A guestimation at Sweden, one of the men correct our assumption. Norway. 43 birthday celebrating Norwegian men. And us. In our matching shirts and make-up less faces. And so it began. Beautiful, steaming mussels in white wine and garlic sauce, crumbed goats cheese salads, more Chilean Sauv Blancs and more obnoxious cheering to ‘the good life’.

Two hours later we were off our chairs, unable to finish our mains and enticed to the dance floor by the chequered shirt wearing, lumbering Norwegians for a jig. The three piece traditional Irish band were a joy to listen to, and I’d imagine even sober would lift the most sullen of faces. The jigging continued, as did the drinking. Spun left and right, Liv nearly met her untimely end in a tumble that resulting in a bruised arse. A ‘River Dance’ performance by us and two of our new best friends dizzied us and sent us to new heights of glee. That is until I was ‘beered’*. Unexpectedly, unprovoked and belligerently beered in the face, by a drunk man mid dip. I was quickly whisked away by a caring youth (the waiter) and offered serviettes as I recovered myself in waves of crying and fury. Unbeknownst to me, whilst I was mopping myself up, Liv my knight in shining armour came to my rescue and in retribution beered the man. He proceed to beer her. She beered him back. He beered her again. Until a co-reveller desperately gripped Liv’s arm pleading for her not to throw the third glass of dregs onto the man. Obviously satiated at the idea of taking the high road, Liv seemed to let the situation lie.

Egged on only by our resilience and obvious ‘awesomeness’ we headed to the bar for shots! The Baby Guinness was introduced to me by Dwayne on my weekend to Cork (link to Cork) and is a shooter of Kahula and Baileys which Liv proceed to rename the ‘Mini Baileys’. Four…or five…perhaps six of these later last round was called. Sometime after 12:30 we reboarded our bus and headed back down the hill. The bus ride included a spectacular meltdown where my booming Saffa tones failed to subside under the desperate pleading of my equally as drunk life partner.

Without highlighting the obvious, Saturday rolled around in a wave of one of the most epic hangovers I’ve had to date. Epic. Perhaps a combination of age as well as the volume and varied amounts of alcohol consumed. We managed, barely, to shower and leave the house for breakfast where we stuffed our vomit prone faces with an Irish breakfast much to the amusement of the café owner. We rolled, literally back home and back to the couch, where we remained with blankets, pizza and bumper episodes of ‘Nothing to Declare’ until it was time to sleep away the nasty repercussions of being ‘Foxxed’.

More sluggishly than we’d hoped, we woke up on Sunday determined to re-enter the world in all our former glory. Though it would have to be a slow, tender re-entry at first with a few of the side affects still lingering. Through slitty eyeballs we popped on a fresh coat of mascara and clothes sans beer stains. Dublin put on another spectacular day as I took Liv up to one of my favourite places in the city. The quaint, postcard coastal town of Howth is home to amazing food markets on a Sunday and I had every intention of indulging. Which we did, purchasing a feast of homemade Italian pestos, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh strawberries and bread we enjoyed a lovers picnic on the green. Enjoying the coastal air and colours we strolled and took photos, stopping to cruise a book sale and enjoy the sun on our pasty faces. Lulled into a near coma, we sauntered into a local café, Il Panorama to enjoy a late afternoon latte. Cajoled into staying for a few Australian Chardonnays on the house, by the charming Australian proprietor and his Italian staff, the afternoon escaped us until we begrudgingly ran for the bus back to the city.

Vino at il Panorama

We enjoyed dinner with Paul and Dwayne – to reunite some of my favourite people- at Green Nineteen, a hip little restaurant with €10 mains also on Camden Street and then headed home to draw the weekend to its final stages. A farcical episode with a 3:45am German alarm clock and a sleepless night later and this crazy tale of faux lesbians, Norwegians, jigging and Dublin’s fair city finally drew to a close.

Next stop. London bruvva.

Full photo album here.

*the act of beer tossing

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

‘Spring is when you feel like whistling, even with a shoe full of slush.’ ~Doug Larson

Monday, 21 March 2011

The morning after the weekend before.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Please forgive the dodgy quality. And for those of you that don’t speak ‘sport’. The Proteas are playing Ireland this morning in the Cricket World Cup.